QR codes are smart barcodes that have a lot of potential to bridge the gap between online and offline marketing.

QR codes are image-based links to information. QR stands for ‘quick response’... instead of remembering and typing a URL / phone number you just take a picture of a QR code, and it does the rest.

In a nut, here’s how it works:

  1. You create a code (an image).
  2. Someone takes a picture of it on a smartphone. 
  3. The code is deciphered via a QR reader. 
  4. It becomes a link to provide the viewer with information. 

In a moment I’ll show you how to set one up...

The future for QR codes is very bright. In Japan they are widely used by companies and consumers, but in most other parts of the world there are a couple of things that need to happen before QR codes really take off. 

Firstly, QR readers will need to be native apps in smartphones to make it easy for people to use them. Right now you’ll probably need to download an app to make them work (I’ll suggest one for iPhone users in a moment).

Secondly, the market will need educating. Thankfully, the market applications are vast. QR codes can be used in print, billboard and TV ads as a response mechanism. They can be used on packaging and signs to promote offers and provide links to information. 

Ok, so would you like to set one up now? Here's how...

Creating a QR code in less than five minutes

Step 1: Download a QR Reader. If you have an iPhone you can download NeoReader from the app store. NeoReader also works for a bunch of other internet-enabled handsets. Go get it. Here's how the app looks on my iPhone:

Create and use your personal QR code in five minutes

Step 2: Test the QR Reader. Once you’ve installed NeoReader try taking a picture of this (and by all means follow me if it works!):

QR code for Chris Lake on Twitter

Step 3: Create your personal QR code. It couldn’t be simpler. All you need to do is define the type of link (URL / text / phone number / SMS) and then add the appropriate content. You can use a free QR code generator like this one.

Step 4: Save and share. Keep the image file in a safe place ('Save As') and copy the image URL from the QR code generator page to use it on the web (as I have done). Spread word.

Hope that worked for you. I'd love to hear about creative real-world applications and early adopters of QR codes. Let me know what you're seeing out there by leaving a comment below.

Chris Lake

Published 11 August, 2009 by Chris Lake

Chris Lake is CEO at EmpiricalProof, and former Director of Content at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter, Google+ or connect via Linkedin.

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Comments (5)



Great Post! It is in my opinion that QR codes will really hit the tipping point and take off within the next year. The codes are already extremely popular in Japan and are starting to gain momentum in Europe and the US. The codes themselves are a cool way for people to engage in promotions, mobile content, branded websites,etc. They can be used in many different ways by many different people. 

In terms of business, they allow advertisers and marketers to effectively add interactivity to offline media. This means that print ads can be linked to digital content and can be monitored and tracked through mobile engagements. Analytics can show accurately how successful a print advertising campaign is at reaching the target market. My company, Mobile Discovery, is currently offering a free trial for advertisers to create, manage and track QR codes. 


almost 9 years ago



Does anyone know how graphics gets incoporated into the QR code.  If you go to Wikipedia there is a man's face integrated into the QR code.  How is this created?

almost 9 years ago



QR Codes are good because the information ise mbedded in the graphics with the need for an internet connection to decode them. EZ codes by Scanlife require an internet connection but allow for a greater aamount of information to be given to the end user. Including complete contact information, a simple text note, a weblink, call, text, twitter, save to calendar and more all from one registered, less complex, code created by http://www.scanlife.com I am going to use it on my business cards and marketing materials.

over 8 years ago


Patrick Donnelly

@John - My company www.qrarts.com designs branded QR codes like the ones you are asking about. Its very tedious, but worth the extra investment.  Let me know if you have any specific questions. 

Patrick Donnelly, QrArts 

almost 8 years ago



Can QR be used in retail to track where it has been sold. For instance, if I have a product that is selling in several stores is it possible for the QR in each store to reflect where it was sold? My intuition says this should be possible but has anyone actually done it?

about 6 years ago

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